Terrorism

The subject of terrorism has a stranglehold on western society. Every day we watch and read about groups like ISIS wreaking havoc with horrifying acts of torture, degradation, and murder; while using religion as their justifying crutch. We see it with governmental powers as well; states that occupy and attack what doesn’t belong to them, citing their “God-given right.” What we fail to recognize in the midst of all this is the terrorism happening right here at home. Evangelical churches and organizations that campaign against the rights of others seek the same ends through different means. While innocent villagers, farmers, and captives are the victims of terrorism abroad, innocent LGBTQ+ people are the victims of terrorism right here within our own borders. What’s more, those same organizations send money and support to victimize the sexual and gender minorities in other countries as well. Hiding behind religious freedom, we see through ISIS … but hiding behind that same freedom, terrorism moves along unfettered in the west.

Terrorism – The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.

Violence – Behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.   1.1 Strength of emotion or an unpleasant or destructive natural force: ‘the violence of her own feelings.’

Intimidation – The act of frightening or threatening somebody so that they will do what you want.  (oxforddictionaries.com)

Groups like the American Family Association, Focus On The Family, and the thousands of anti-equality churches are, by definition, terrorist organizations; yet nobody is talking about it. We talk about bigotry and ignorance, about close-mindedness, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has labelled many of those organizations as “Hate Groups,” but we tiptoe around calling them what they really are. They use strength of emotion to drive their hate, and hide behind political protection of “sincerely held religious beliefs.” They hold morality hostage and drive their followers to do heinous things against LGBTQ+ people. They give money to anti-gay bills in other countries. They sign petitions to stop positive educational initiatives. They protest in front of court houses to deny equal rights. They are bent on committing cultural genocide against those whose views and values differ from their own. They are so much worse than mere hate groups. Churches and organizations that actively campaign against social equality epitomize the very definition of terrorism.

Why aren’t we talking about this? Because we are afraid to. We have bought into two mantras: “everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” and “we have to respect the beliefs of others.” The problem is that an opinion that’s inherently harmful to both those it’s directed at and those who hold it, must not go unaddressed – and beliefs are only worthy of respect if they stand for the good of humanity. Respecting beliefs because they are beliefs puts us in serious moral trouble, when it comes to the belief that a gay man deserves eternity in a lake of fire just for living honestly. We face an even greater moral dilemma when it comes to the terrorism we are all too familiar with. I know many people who say “we have to respect the beliefs of others,” but not one of them respects Sharia Law. What about the ISIS militants who believe it’s morally correct to throw gay men from rooftops? What about the Ugandan lawmakers who believe God wants them to throw a man in jail for 10 years just for being gay … and what about your neighbour who feels that God has called him/her to donate money to an organization that supports the Ugandan government in that decision? My guess is that you don’t respect the beliefs of the Ugandan lawmakers, but you will make excuses for your friend. The trouble is that while one seeks to commit the atrocity, the other seeks to fund it. They seek the same ends through different means. Their beliefs are exactly identical, and you face a moral conundrum when you show respect for an immoral belief; regardless of who holds it.

If you disagree or are uncomfortable with equating home-grown anti-equality groups with ISIS, I understand. We have been conditioned to see terrorists as an evil ‘other.’ We kill for freedom, they kill to oppress. What we need to do is ask ourselves ‘what’s the difference?’ What’s the difference between ISIS throwing gay men from rooftops and a church petitioning to stop equality education in our schools? Sure, one is extremely physically violent, but they are both acts of terrorism. They both breed fear and a reluctance to speak out. They both keep LGBTQ+ youth in the closet, and in doing so, cause suicide. They both encourage oppression. They both foster a culture in which difference is met with animosity. They both aim to impose their own social and legal standard based on religious belief and misinformation. Look back up to the definitions of terrorism, violence, and intimidation. Everything fits.

We have to stop handling hate with kid gloves. I know the word “terrorist” conjures a very specific image for us, but we have to realize that terrorism takes many forms. Terrorism uses violence and intimidation to achieve political and ideological aims. This applies as much to those who wish to impose the Islamic state as it does to those who want to use fear tactics and fund violence in the name of Jesus. What’s the difference between taking an innocent life and creating a culture in which that life is defined as an abomination worthy of God’s wrath?

No more excuses. No-one is entitled to act on the disastrous ‘opinion’ that others deserve to die, and beliefs allowing for that outcome are NOT deserving of respect. The active anti-equality campaigning of evangelical groups and churches IS terrorism. If you were forced to look at the brutalized bodies, the carnage of mass beatings and shootings, the horror in the faces of the victims before they die, the pain in the lives of those who can’t come out, the struggle of those who go well into adulthood before accepting who they are … you would see that clearly. We all would. If you had to live it … alone and afraid of what would happen if your secret was found out … you would see it clearly. We all would. Terrorism keeps its victims in line out of fear. We easily identify it elsewhere, so again ask yourself “what’s the difference?”

We owe it to those we’ve lost to call this what it is. It’s terrorism. To call it by any other name is not good enough.

 

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7 thoughts on “Terrorism

  1. I have to say that when I was part of the campaign against same-sex blessings/gay marriage in the Anglican church, an article like this would not have helped change my mind. It would have had the opposite effect; it would have hardened me in my opinions. I would already have been convinced that you were wrong (just as you would have been convinced that I was wrong), and the fact that you had just labelled me a terrorist would not have motivated me to want to listen to you and learn from what you were saying.

    I don’t believe articles like this change anything. They make the home crowd cheer, they make the enemy mad, and everyone stays exactly where they were before.

    (Well, you did invite me to comment, Josh!).

    • And yet the argument is valid. People like Dr Michael Brown, Bryan Fischer, and company say much worse than this about the LGBTQ+ community all the time, and their “facts” and analyses are based on myths and proconceived notions. Whether or not this article pisses people off doesn’t really matter. It deserves to be said. A lot is said on both sides that shuts people down, and that’s okay.

      • I don’t think it shuts people down. The people you disagree with will not shut up; in fact, they’ll continue to speak, and if they read what you have to say, they may even shout louder. So you have two sides shouting even louder at each other. What have you accomplished?

        What you will shut down, or at least make less likely, is the possibility that people will actually change their minds. In order for that to happen you have to build bridges with them, not hurl hand grenades at them. I was persuaded to moderate my views through gracious gay and lesbian people who reached out to me. I would never have listened to anyone who called me a terrorist.

      • I don’t disagree with you Tim, you make a very valid point. I consider these things before before writing every article, but in this case I also thought of the people this kind of argument does work for. I was also part of the campaign against marriage equality in the Anglican church. I wrote letters to the Anglican Journal, I stood on the Diocesan Synod floor beside clergy and laypeople who agreed with me, I was very outspoken about my negative views, and at one point I was likened to a terrorist. I was furious, but I never forgot it. Years later, that accusation played a big part in my transition to acceptance. It made me think, it made me want to learn, it made me want to ensure that whatever I did to make that person say such a thing could never again be true. An argument similar to the one laid out in this article drove me to be better. I know many people who respond to these types of arguments the same way, and although it will cause many to close their minds and shout even louder, it will also cause many to think about what they believe and why. Gracious and compassionate LGBTQ+ people who reached out to me made a difference also, but being called a terrorist actually made me receptive. I had to know if my animosity was reasonable, and that exploration eventually led me to becoming an outspoken ally.

      • Josh: First, I had to laugh when you began with “I don’t disagree with you”, and then proceeded to disagree with me! If we can still laugh, obviously we’re meant to continue talking to each other!

        Second, you are the first person who has ever told me that they have changed their mind on this issue because of argument. Seriously. I have never met anyone else with that experience.

        Third, I’m reminded of something C.S. Lewis said once about inflated language. You already have the words ‘bigot’ and ‘homophobe’. What do you gain by pressing the word ‘terrorist’ into service for your case as well? Nineteen times out of twenty, people assume that word means people who fly airplanes into tall buildings and kill three thousand people in one go. If you use the word ‘terrorist’ when ‘bigot’ would do the trick, what word will you have left when you need to use ‘terrorist’? You’ll have to coin another one. And you’ll end up like a junkie who needs to use stronger and stronger doses of his drug to achieve the same high.

        So I guess I still don’t know whether your gains outweigh your losses when you use that kind of language. Me, I’m a bridge builder; shouting at people never worked well for me. Call me romantic and naive if you like, but I never liked a plan that left winners and losers; the losers have a way of coming back for revenge.

      • Tim: I don’t see that I disagreed with you. I acknowledged your point and presented my experience, but the view I presented was a different reaction to the same topic; it didn’t contradict yours at all.
        I believe you’ve never met or heard of anyone who has had my experience regarding these arguments. That’s okay, we learn new things all the time.
        As for language, the word ‘terrorist’ is misunderstood. I stayed within the definition, and argued for that pretty clearly. The word ‘terrorist’ is also employed regularly by a certain right wing radio host in the U.S. in reference to LGBTQ+ rights activists, and people accept his use of the word. The thing is, LGBTQ+ rights activists aren’t killing Christians or trying to deny them anything but their position of privilege. People are killing LGBTQ+ people for who they are in the name of God, and in the name of Allah, and groups like the Family Research Council (and assorted churches) are funding it. That goes way beyond bigotry. You said ‘bigot’ would have done the trick, but it wouldn’t have come close to acknowledging the severity of this. I picked out one specific aspect of the fight against equality to write an article on, and called it what it is.
        In what other context would I have to coin a new phrase? This is not about calling names, it’s about calling a spade a spade. I never said moderates are terrorists, or average Christians, or every church, or all of christendom. I said churches and organizations involved in active anti-equality campaigns.
        Finally, I’m sorry that you read the article in a shouting tone. It was actually consistent and measured. The target of the accusation was clearly defined, the definitions were kept to, and the argument was valid. You may disagree with the premise, and you may take exception to it, but let’s not act like this was some shouting out-of-control rant. There will be losers in this, and based on the cultural tide, its likely that the losers will be those who can’t see past their rigid and misguided concepts of what God wants in regard to supporting harm. No winners or losers would be nice, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. We need bridge builders, we need people who stir it up, we even need people who offend. This is the way we’ve been doing it, and it seems to be working. With all methods in play, positive change is happening!

      • Fair enough. At this point I’ll bow out, as I think I’ve said what I wanted to say. I’ve responded to your email message, Josh. All the best.

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